After days of backlash from Evangelicals, World Vision, an international nonprofit ministry, has reversed its decision to allow those in same-sex marriages to be employed.
"Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national employment conduct policy," the Christian humanitarian organization said in a letter to supporters Wednesday. "The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."
World Vision has come under heavy criticism since it made public on Monday its policy change. In a letter to its employees that was shared with The Christian Post on Monday, World Vision President Richard Stearns announced that while the organization is not endorsing same-sex marriage, it recognizes that its staff is comprised of believers from more than 50 denominations, some of which have sanctioned same-sex marriage. Thus, its board has decided to defer the issue to local churches, in its effort to "treat all of our employees equally."
Stearns' letter regarding World Vision's change in employee practices notes that the board spent several years praying for discernment about their decision after having witnessed the debate over same-sex marriage "tear apart the Body of Christ," in families, churches, Christian universities and denominations.
"The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ," he stated.
The policy change drew criticism from such prominent Evangelicals as evangelist Franklin Graham and George Wood of the Assemblies of God.
"My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, would be heartbroken," said Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God. World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures consistently teach that marriage is between a man and woman and any other marriage relationship is sin."
On Tuesday, the Assemblies of God issued a statement encouraging its churches and individual members to "gradually shift support away from the U.S. branch of World Vision to Assemblies of God World Missions, and other Pentecostal and evangelical charities that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality."
Denouncing World Vision's decision to allow people who are in a legal same-sex marriages to be employed at the nonprofit organization, Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, said that World Vision's policy change "cannot be construed as anything but an endorsement of same-sex marriage."
"Far from promoting Christian unity, the policy change enlists World Vision on the liberal Protestant side of the same-sex marriage debate as opposed to that of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in the U.S., not to mention Pentecostal and Evangelical churches worldwide," said Wood, who represents a fellowship of more than 3 million members.
The Christian Post continues to reach out to World Vision for comment.
Below is the full letter from World Vision on its reversal:
Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.
We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.
In our board's effort to unite around the church's shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.'s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, " We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. " And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.
We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board's intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.
While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.
Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be " an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God ."
Sincerely in Christ,
Richard Stearns, President
Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board